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DWA Previews 'Rise of the Guardians,' 'Madagascar 3'

Madagascar 3 Snorkel Film Still - H 2012
Courtesy of DreamWorks
A scene from DWA's "Madagascar 3."

Clips from DreamWorks' new Alec Baldwin-voiced animated film introduce Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Sandman, Jack Frost--and the villain, Pitch.

DreamWorks Animation previewed 15 minutes of its upcoming Rise of the Guardians and 25 minutes of Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, at a press event Wednesday at the DGA theatre.

Both 2012 films will be 3D releases, though the clips were shown in 2D as works in progress. DWA also previewed new 3D trailers for both films.

Rise of the Guardians, scheduled for release Nov. 21, is based on the fantasy The Guardians of Childhood by William Joyce (who won an Academy Award last month as co-director of the animated short The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore). The film is directed by Peter Ramsey, co-directed by Joyce, and was written by Pulitzer Prize winner David Lindsay-Abaire.

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The story follows characters including Santa and the Easter Bunny who protect children’s wonder and belief -- and must stop the villainous Boogeyman named Pitch, voiced by Jude Law.

The Guardians include Santa, known as "North," voiced by Alec Baldwin who gives the character a Russian accent; the Easter Bunny, "Bunnymund," who gets an Australian accent from actor Hugh Jackman; the Tooth Fairy, "Tooth," described as "half human, half hummingbird," voiced by Isla Fisher; and Sandy, the Sandman, who doesn’t talk and was described as mix of Harpo Marx and Buddha.

Chris Pine provides the voice of loner Jack Frost. As part of the footage presentation, DWA screened a clip in which the Guardians try to recruit Frost to help them to take on Pitch, but Frost is wary.

Pine, who was on hand  at the DGA, said of his first animated feature: "The fight against the cynicism of adulthood—that is really what resonated with me."

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Ramsey told The Hollywood Reporter that Baldwin was "hilarious…He slips into this Russian accent  – and sometime he’ll do North as De Niro or Pacino."

The first clip was a rendering of Jack on a frozen lake in snowy forest that appears in the moonlight; overall the movie's look has a sense of realism. "The look of the film all started from taking the idea of belief seriously," Ramsey explained. "We wanted to take the characters sort of serious and in a world that is real enough that you connected with them. That was the philosophical starting point."

"We had a lot of new tools that we were using -- visual effects, lighting, skin shaders, the model rigs are super detailed. It's all the artists and technicians coming together and wanting to bring their A-game," he said, added that the collaboration involved "input from Guillermo del Toro (one of the film's executive producers). Patrick Hanenberger our production designer drove so much of the look -- and really inspired me to push for a more realistic, gutsy look. And we were incredibly lucky to have Roger Deakins -- one of the world's greatest cinematographers -- to consult with us. Even though he is working on James Bond (Skyfall) now, he is still consulting. We send him references and he sends back incredibly detailed notes that are fantastic."

Completing each scene were atmospheric effects, from snow to sand to breath. Explained Ramsey:  "Atmosphere is one of the keys to immersing people in 3D. The 3D really does transform some of these scenes and give you a whole different sense of reality.”

It's been 12 years since DWA began work on Madagascar, and that film and its sequel have together grossed more than $1.1 billion worldwide. Madagascar 3, opening June 8, is the first in the franchise to open in 3D.

The film finds the zoo animals still trying to get back to New York -- by way of Europe, including stops in Monte Carlo, London, Rome and the Swiss Alps. To get around undetected, they join – and acquire from an eager ringmaster -- a travelling circus.

In addition to the return of Alex (Ben Stiller), Marty (Chris Rock), Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith), Melman (David Schwimmer) -- and the penguins, lemurs and monkeys -- there are some new characters, who are from the circus. That includes Vitaly, a tiger voiced by Bryan Cranston; Stefano, a sea lion performed by Martin Short; and the jaguar Gia, voiced by Jessica Chastain.

The film also introduces a new baddie, the ruthless police captain DuBois, voiced by Academy Award winner Frances McDormand.

The first clip opened with the zoo animals coming out of the sea and converging on Monte Carlo Casino, where the penguins and monkeys are in disguise and gambling. The plan is to find their friends and return to New York, but they are discovered in the middle of the casino, launching a panic and high speed chase through the streets and in the air.

Later the zoo animals meet the new characters as they pretend to be circus performers in order to hide from DuBois’ persistent pursuit. Another clip showed a circus performance by the zoo animals, set to Katy Perry’s "Firework."